Your continued donations keep Wikipedia running!    

Kurt Cobain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
Kurt Cobain
Cobain (center)  with Nirvana
Cobain (center) with Nirvana
Background information
Birth name Kurt Donald Cobain
Also known as Kurdt Kobain
Kurdt Cobain
Born February 20, 1967
Aberdeen, Washington
Died c. April 5, 1994
Seattle, Washington
Genre(s) Alternative rock
Grunge
Instrument(s) Vocals, Guitar
Label(s) Sub Pop
DGC Records
Associated
acts
Nirvana

Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967c. April 5, 1994) was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist of the Seattle-based rock band Nirvana. He served not only as the band's frontman and principal songwriter, but also as its "leader and spiritual center."[1] With the band's success, Cobain became a major national and international celebrity, an uncomfortable position for a man who once said, "Famous is the last thing I wanted to be."[2]

Cobain and Nirvana helped reshape popular music in the 1990s. In 1991, the arrival of Nirvana's hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" marked the beginning of a dramatic shift of popular rock music away from the dominant genres of the 1980s (glam metal, arena rock, and dance-pop) and toward the ascendance of grunge and alternative rock. The music media eventually awarded the song "anthem-of-a-generation" status,[3] and, with it, Cobain ascended as the reluctant "spokesman" for Generation X. Other hit songs written by Cobain include "Come as You Are", "Lithium", "In Bloom", "Heart-Shaped Box", "All Apologies", and "About a Girl".

During the last years of his life, Cobain battled drug addiction and the media pressures surrounding him and his wife Courtney Love. On April 8, 1994, Cobain's body was found in his home. His death was officially ruled a suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound. Since then, the circumstances surrounding his death have fueled much analysis and debate.

Contents

[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Cobain was born to Donald and Wendy Cobain on February 20, 1967 in the Grays Harbor Community Hospital in Aberdeen, Washington and spent his first six months living in Hoquiam, Washington before the family moved to Aberdeen.[4] His mother was a waitress and homemaker and his father worked as a mechanic at Derrell Thompson's Chevron Station. Cobain enrolled at Robert Gray Elementary School in 1972. By most accounts, his early life was happy and he lived as a part of the typical American family, which grew to include sister Kimberly in April 1970.

He began developing an interest in music early in his life. According to his Aunt Mari, "He was singing from the time he was two. He would sing Beatles songs like 'Hey Jude.' He had a lot of charisma from a very young age."[5]

At the age of seven, Cobain was prescribed Ritalin for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Cobain's widow Courtney Love blamed Ritalin for Cobain's addiction to heroin: "When you're a kid and you get this drug that makes you feel that [euphoric] feeling, where else are you going to turn when you're an adult?"[6]

Young Kurt Cobain, seen here in a yearbook picture. This picture was handed out at his memorial service.
Enlarge
Young Kurt Cobain, seen here in a yearbook picture. This picture was handed out at his memorial service.

Cobain's life changed dramatically at the age of seven when his parents divorced in 1975, an event which he later cited as having a profound impact on his life. His mother noted that his personality changed dramatically, with Cobain becoming more withdrawn.[7] In a 1993 interview, Cobain said, "I remember feeling ashamed, for some reason. I was ashamed of my parents. I couldn't face some of my friends at school anymore, because I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that."[8] After a year spent living with his mother following the divorce, Cobain moved to Montesano, Washington to live with his father and transferred to Beacon Elementary School, but after a few years his youthful rebellion became too overwhelming and he found himself being shuffled between friends and family.[9]

As a child, Cobain idolized stuntman Evel Knievel. In third grade, Cobain dived from the deck of the family's house onto a bed of pillows and blankets below. Cobain told journalist Michael Azerrad that he also once attached a set of firecrackers to a piece of metal, placed it on his chest, and lit them.

At school, Cobain took little interest in sports. At his father's insistence, Cobain joined the junior high wrestling team. While he was good at it, he despised it. Later, his father signed him up for a local baseball league, where Cobain would intentionally strike out to avoid having to play.[10] Instead, Cobain focused on his art courses. He often drew during classes, including objects associated with fetuses and the human anatomy.

Cobain was friends with a gay student at his school, sometimes suffering bullying at the hands of homophobic students. That friendship, along with his small stature, led some to believe that he himself was gay. In a February 1992 interview with The Advocate, Cobain claimed that he used to spraypaint "God is Gay" on pickup trucks around Aberdeen. In the accompanying article, writer Kevin Allman noted that Cobain was arrested in 1985 for spray-painting "ORAL SEX RULES" on a bank.[11] However, Aberdeen police records show that the phrase for which he was arrested was actually "Ain't got no how watchamacallit."[12]

In the Advocate interview, Cobain said that he thought he was gay while in high school. He later stated, "I'm definitely gay in spirit and I probably could be bisexual. But I'm married and I'm more attracted to Courtney than I ever have been toward a person, so there's no point in trying to sow my oats at this point. If I wouldn't have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual lifestyle". When Nirvana appeared on Saturday Night Live in January 1992, Cobain and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic jokingly "made out" during the cast and crew farewells as the credits rolled. (Cobain and Novoselic bobbed their heads back and forth wildly as if in rapture; Novoselic and Dave Grohl subsequently repeated the gesture.) The segment was cut from the show on further airings, replaced by the closing credits from the rehearsal taping (which lacked Cobain) and never aired again.

As a teenager with a chaotic home life growing up in small town Washington, Cobain eventually found escape through the thriving Pacific Northwest punk scene, going to punk rock shows in Seattle. Cobain formed a lifelong friendship with fellow Montesano musicians The Melvins, whose music later heavily influenced Nirvana's sound. Cobain had a small "K" inside a shield tattooed on his forearm, the insignia of Olympia, Washington, label K Records.

Cobain also experimented with drugs while in high school. He was a habitual marijuana smoker. By the mid-1980s, he claimed to have tried nearly every drug available, with the noted exception of PCP, which he avoided after hearing stories about people freaking out on the drug. In 1986, Cobain became addicted to Percodan, an opioid painkiller, which he claimed he did not realize was addictive. His drug use foreshadowed the addictions of his later life.

In his youth, Cobain spent much time reading in the local library, discovering such literary figures as S.E. Hinton and William S. Burroughs, whose cut-up technique Cobain occasionally utilized to write lyrics for some of Nirvana's songs. Cobain eventually had the opportunity to record with Burroughs a spoken word with guitar improvisation piece: the "Priest" they called him, whose words were originally one of Burroughs' short stories from The Exterminator. Other literary works which impacted Cobain's philosophy included the SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas, The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, and Perfume by Patrick Süskind, as well as works by Samuel Beckett, Charles Bukowski, Jon Savage and Camille Paglia.

In the middle of his sophomore year he moved back to live with his mother in Aberdeen. He was enrolled at Weatherwax High School. Two weeks before his graduation, Cobain dropped out of high school after realizing that he did not have enough credits to graduate. His mother gave him an ultimatum: either get a job or leave. After a week or so, Cobain found his clothes and other belongings packed away in boxes.[13] Forced out of his mother's home, Cobain often stayed at friends' houses and sneaked into his mother's basement every now and then.[14] Cobain later claimed that when he could not find anywhere else to stay, he lived under a bridge over the Wishkah River (at Young Street), an experience that inspired the Nevermind track "Something In The Way". (In the June 2005 issue of Guitar World, Novoselic claimed that Cobain never really lived there, saying, "He hung out there, but you couldn't live on those muddy banks, with the tides coming up and down. That was his own revisionism.") Occasionally he slept in the waiting room at Grays Harbor Community Hospital. Cobain worked various odd jobs in the Aberdeen community and earned enough to rent an apartment in June 1985. However he became homeless again after he was caught writing "Ain'T goT no how waTchamacalliT" on a wall on a local bank and was arrested for vandalism. He ended up moving into Lamont Schillinger's home. On May 18, 1986, he was arrested for trespassing after he wandered onto the roof of an abandoned building. On September 1, 1986, Cobain moved into his first house that he lived in alone and paid his rent by working part-time as a school janitor. In 1987 he and Novoselic moved to Olympia and formed Nirvana.

While in Olympia, Cobain found a live-in girlfriend in Tracy Marander, who would be the inspiration for "About a Girl" from Bleach. After breaking up in 1990, he entered a relationship with Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail, whom he had been seeing on the side. Despite Cobain's wishes, the relationship did not progress beyond casual sex.

[edit] Nirvana

Main article: Nirvana (band)
Music samples:

Cobain received his first guitar from his uncle at age 14, who had bought it at bargain price from Rosevear's Music Center in Aberdeen, choosing it over a bicycle. From there, he tried to form bands with friends, generally noodling on songs by AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. In high school, he often found himself without anyone to jam with, as none of his friends had any particular musical talent. Later in high school, Cobain met Novoselic, a fellow devotee of punk rock, who lived across from the Young Street bridge. Novoselic's mother owned a hair salon (Maria's Hair Design) and they would practice there in the above room on occasion. A few years later, Cobain tried to convince Novoselic to form a band with him by lending him a copy of a home demo recorded by Cobain's earlier band, Fecal Matter. After months of prodding, Novoselic finally agreed to join Cobain, forming the beginnings of Nirvana.[15]

For the first few years of their playing together, Novoselic and Cobain found themselves host to a rotating list of drummers. Eventually, the band settled on Chad Channing, with whom Nirvana recorded the album Bleach, released on Sub Pop Records in 1989. Cobain, however, became dissatisfied with Channing's style, eventually leading the band to Dave Grohl. With Grohl, the band found their greatest success via their 1991 major-label debut, Nevermind.

Cobain struggled to reconcile the massive success of Nirvana with his underground roots. He also felt persecuted by the media, comparing himself to Frances Farmer, and harbored resentment for people who claimed to be fans of the band but who completely missed the point of the band's message. One incident particularly distressing to Cobain involved two men who raped a woman while singing the Nirvana song "Polly". Cobain condemned the episode in the liner notes of the US release of the album Incesticide: "Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song 'Polly.' I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience. Sorry to be so anally P.C. but that's the way I feel."

[edit] Marriage

Courtney Love first saw Cobain perform in 1988. According to journalist Everett True, the pair were formally introduced at an L7 / Butthole Surfers concert in Los Angeles in May 1991. (Most biographies place the first meeting in Portland in 1989, but True insists the 1991 date is accurate, and points to a 1992 Cobain/Love interview with Sassy Magazine in which the pair noted that they met at an L7 / Butthole Surfers concert.) In the weeks that followed, after learning from Grohl that she and Cobain shared mutual crushes, Love began pursuing Cobain. After a few weeks of on-again, off-again courtship in the fall of 1991, the two found themselves together on a regular basis, often bonding through drug use.

Around the time of Nirvana's 1992 performance on Saturday Night Live, Love discovered that she was pregnant with Cobain's child. A few days after the conclusion of Nirvana's Pacific Rim tour, on Monday, February 24, 1992, Cobain married Love on Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. On August 18, the couple's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, was born. The unusual middle name was given to her because Cobain thought she looked like a kidney bean on the first sonogram he saw of her. Her namesake is Frances McKee of The Vaselines, of whom Cobain was a big fan, and not Frances Farmer as is sometimes reported.

In April 1992, the couple appeared together on the cover of the teen girl magazine Sassy. "In the last couple months I've gotten engaged and my attitude has changed drastically", Kurt told the reporter. "I can't believe how much happier I am. At times I even forget that I'm in a band, I'm so blinded by love. I know that sounds embarrassing, but it's true. I could give up the band right now. It doesn't matter, but I'm under contract."[16]

Love was somewhat unpopular with Nirvana fans; her harshest critics said she was merely using him as a vehicle to make herself famous. Critics who compared Cobain to John Lennon were also fond of comparing Love to Yoko Ono. Rumors persist that Cobain wrote most of the songs on the breakthrough album Live Through This of Love's band Hole, partially fueled by the 1996 appearance of a rough mix of "Asking for It" with Cobain singing backing vocals. However, there is no specific evidence to support the assertion.

At the same time, one Hole song was co-written by Cobain but entirely credited to Hole. The song "Old Age" appeared as a B-side on the 1993 single for Beautiful Son, credited to Hole. Initially, there was no reason to believe it was anything other than a Hole-penned song. However, in 1998, a boombox recording of the song performed by Nirvana (with significantly different lyrics) was surfaced by Seattle newspaper The Stranger. In the article that accompanied the clip, Novoselic confirmed that the recording was made in 1991 and that "Old Age" was a Nirvana song, leading to more speculation about Cobain's involvement in Hole's catalog. Nirvana had even attempted to record "Old Age" during the sessions for Nevermind, but it was left incomplete as Cobain had yet to finish the lyrics and the band had run out of studio time. (The incomplete recording appeared on the 2004 compilation With the Lights Out, credited to Cobain.) As for Hole's version, guitarist Eric Erlandson noted that he believed Cobain wrote the music for the song, but that Love had written the lyrics for their version. [1]

In a 1992 article in Vanity Fair, Love admitted to using heroin while (unknowingly) pregnant, an admission that seriously damaged her public standing. Love, along with Cobain, claimed that Vanity Fair took her words out of context. While Cobain and Love's romance had always been something of a media attraction, the couple found themselves hounded by tabloid reporters after the article was published, many wanting to know if Frances was addicted to drugs at birth. As a result of the article, Los Angeles County Department of Children's Services took the Cobains to court, claiming that the couple's drug usage made them unfit parents. Two-week-old Frances Bean Cobain was ordered by the judge to be taken from their custody and placed with Courtney's sister Jamie for several weeks, after which the couple obtained custody, but had to submit to urine tests and a regular visit from a social worker. After months of legal wrangling, the couple were eventually granted full custody of their daughter.

[edit] Drug addiction

Throughout most of his life, Cobain battled depression, chronic bronchitis, and intense physical pain due to an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition. This last condition wreaked an especially debilitating toll on his emotional welfare, and he spent years trying to find its source. However, none of the doctors he consulted was able to pinpoint the specific cause, guessing that it was either a result of Cobain's childhood scoliosis or related to the stresses of performing. Cobain self-medicated with heroin, although his condition was not the primary reason for his heroin use.

Cobain had his first taste of the drug sometime in 1986, thanks to a local drug dealer who had been supplying him with Percodans. Cobain used the drug sporadically for years, but it eventually developed into a full-fledged addiction. Toward the end of 1991, his use began affecting the band's support of Nevermind, with Cobain passing out during photo shoots. One memorable example came the day of the band's 1992 performance on Saturday Night Live, where Nirvana had a shoot with photographer Michael Levine. Having shot up beforehand, Cobain nodded off several times during the shoot. Regarding the shoot, Cobain related to biographer Michael Azerrad, "I mean, what are they supposed to do? They're not going to be able to tell me to stop. So I really didn't care. Obviously to them it was like practicing witchcraft or something. They didn't know anything about it so they thought that any second, I was going to die."[17] Cobain also overdosed on the same night, after performing on Saturday Night Live

Cobain's heroin addiction worsened as the years progressed. Cobain made his first attempt at rehab in early 1992, not long after he and Love discovered they were going to become parents. Immediately after leaving rehab, Nirvana embarked on their Australian tour, with Cobain appearing pale and gaunt while suffering through withdrawals. Not long after returning home, Cobain's addiction resurfaced.

Prior to a performance at the New Music Seminar in New York City in July 1993, Cobain suffered a heroin overdose. Rather than calling for an ambulance, Love injected Cobain with illegally acquired Narcan to bring him out of his unconscious state. Cobain proceeded to perform with Nirvana on what later was recognized as one of their more memorable performances. The public was given no hint that anything out of the ordinary had taken place.

[edit] Cobain's final weeks

Wikisource has original text related to this article:

Following a tour stop at Terminal Eins in Munich, Germany, on March 1, 1994, Cobain was diagnosed with bronchitis and severe laryngitis. He flew to Rome the next day for medical treatment, and was joined there by his wife on March 3.

The next morning, Love awoke to find that Cobain had overdosed on a combination of champagne and Rohypnol (Love had a prescription for Rohypnol filled after arriving in Rome). Cobain was immediately rushed to the hospital, and spent the rest of the day unconscious. After five days in the hospital, Cobain was released and returned to Seattle.[18] Love later insisted publicly that the incident was Cobain's first suicide attempt.

The alleged suicide note.
Enlarge
The alleged suicide note.

On March 18, Love phoned police to inform them that Cobain was suicidal and had locked himself in a room with a gun. Police arrived and confiscated several guns and a bottle of pills from Cobain, who insisted that he was not suicidal and had locked himself in the room to hide from Love. When questioned by police, Love admitted that Cobain had never mentioned that he was suicidal and that she had not seen him with a gun.[19]

On March 25, Love arranged an intervention concerning Cobain's drug use. The ten people involved included musician friends, record company executives, and one of Cobain's closest friends, Dylan Carlson. Former Nirvana manager Danny Goldberg described Cobain as being "extremely reluctant" and that he "denied that he was doing anything self-destructive." However, by the end of the day, Cobain had agreed to undergo a detox program.[20]

On March 30, Cobain arrived at the Exodus Recovery Center in Los Angeles, California. On the afternoon of April 1, one of Frances Bean's nannies brought her to the facility for an hour-long visit with Cobain. That night, Cobain walked outside to have a cigarette, then climbed over a six-foot-high fence to leave the facility. He took a taxi to the airport and flew back to Seattle. The next morning, he stopped by his Seattle home and had a conversation with Michael "Cali" DeWitt, who lived at Cobain's house. Over the next several days, Cobain was spotted in various locations around Seattle, but most of his friends and family were unaware of his whereabouts.

On April 3, Love contacted a private investigator, Tom Grant, and hired him to find Cobain. The next day, Love filed a missing person report under Cobain's mother's name without her permission. She added in the file that Cobain was suicidal and was in possession of a shotgun.[21]

On April 8, 1994, Cobain was discovered in the spare room above the garage (referred to as "the greenhouse") at his Lake Washington home by Veca Electric employee Gary Smith. Smith arrived at the house that morning to install security lighting and saw him lying inside. Apart from a minor amount of blood coming out of Cobain's ear, Smith reported seeing no visible signs of trauma, and initially believed that Cobain was asleep. Smith found what he thought might be a suicide note with a pen stuck through it beneath an overturned flowerpot. A shotgun, purchased for Cobain by Dylan Carlson, was found at Cobain's side. An autopsy report later concluded Cobain's death was a result of a "self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head." The report estimates Cobain to have died on April 5, 1994.

In the alleged suicide note, ostensibly written to Cobain's imaginary childhood friend "Boddah", Cobain quoted a lyric from Neil Young's song "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)": "It's better to burn out than to fade away." Cobain's use of the lyric had a profound impact on Young, who recorded portions of his 1994 album Sleeps with Angels in Cobain's memory. The note also invoked the name of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who Cobain felt could revel in the adoration of an audience in a way that Cobain himself could not.

Cobain's body was cremated, with one third of his ashes scattered at the Namgyal Tibetan buddhist monastery in Ithaca, New York, another third in the Wishkah River, and the rest left in Love's possession.

[edit] Suicide dispute

Kurt Cobain is legally recognized to have committed suicide. However, others contend that Cobain may have been murdered.

The first to publicly object to the report of suicide was Seattle public access host Richard Lee. A week after Cobain's death, Lee aired the first episode of an ongoing documentary covering Cobain's death called Kurt Cobain Was Murdered. Making note of several discrepancies in the police reports, including several changes in the nature of the shotgun blast, Lee insisted that Cobain was murdered. Lee acquired a video that was shot on April 8 from the tree outside Cobain's garage and showed the scene around Cobain's body, and noted an absence of blood for what was reported as a point-blank shotgun blast to the head. Several pathology experts have noted that a shotgun blast inside the mouth often results in less blood, unlike a shotgun blast to the head.[22] Lee's TV series continues to run, but often focuses on general issues regarding the Seattle Police Department.

In addition, Tom Grant, the private investigator employed by Love after Cobain's disappearance from rehab, adamantly believes that Cobain's death was a homicide. Grant was still under Love's employ when Cobain's body was found. Grant cites a figure published in an April 14, 1994, article by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, purportedly from the official toxicology report, which claimed, "the level of heroin in Cobain's bloodstream was 1.52 milligrams per liter."[23] Grant cites the figure as the key piece of evidence for murder. Grant argues that Cobain could not have injected himself with such a dose and still have been able to pull the trigger, an assertion supported by several notable experts on heroin addiction.[24] Grant does not believe that Cobain was killed by the heroin dose, however. He suggests that the heroin was used to incapacitate Cobain before the final shotgun blast was administered by the perpetrator. As to his first claim, critics point to several different studies on heroin use that note the difficulty in pinpointing the level of heroin that an addict can tolerate. In a 2004 story, Dateline NBC questioned five medical examiners about the figure from the toxicology report. Two of them noted the possibility that Cobain could have built up enough of a tolerance through repeated usage to have been able to pull the trigger himself, while the three others held that the information was inconclusive.[25]

Grant also believes that the apparent suicide note was actually a letter announcing his intent to leave Courtney Love, Seattle, and the music business. Grant believes that the few lines at the very bottom of the note, separate from the rest of it, are the only parts that sound like a suicide note. Grant and a number of handwriting experts point out that those lines are written in a style that varies from the rest of the letter. Grant also notes that the official report does not distinguish the questionable lines from the rest of the note, and simply concludes that Cobain wrote the note. However, when Dateline NBC sent a copy of the note to four different handwriting experts, one concluded that the entire note was in Cobain's hand, while the other three said the sample was inconclusive.[25]

In addition, Grant suggests that if the shotgun that Cobain used was positioned to match the findings of the autopsy report, his arm would have been too short for him to reach the trigger. Cobain would have had to fire the weapon with his toe, yet he was found with both shoes still in place.

Critics dismiss Grant's assertions, claiming that many of them are unproven hypotheses based on unconfirmable information. Critics also see Grant as an opportunist, pointing out that he sells "kits" about the alleged conspiracy (called "Case Study Manuals") via his website. Grant counters that any profit made from the kits goes to offset some of the costs of his investigation. As Grant related, "I wrestled with that ... but if I go broke, I'll have to give up my pursuit and Courtney wins."[26]

Kurt's cause of death is the subject of Nick Broomfield's documentary, Kurt & Courtney.
Enlarge
Kurt's cause of death is the subject of Nick Broomfield's documentary, Kurt & Courtney.

Filmmaker Nick Broomfield decided to investigate the story for himself, and took a film crew to visit a number of people associated with Cobain and Love, including Love's father, Cobain's aunt, and one of the couple's former nannies. Broomfield also spoke to Mentors bandleader El Duce, who claimed that Love had offered him $50,000 to kill Cobain, and passed a polygraph administered by well-regarded polygraph expert Dr. Edward Gelb. Though El Duce noted that he knew who killed Kurt, he failed to mention a name. Broomfield inadvertently captured El Duce's last interview, as he died days later under mysterious circumstances, reportedly hit by a train while drunk. Broomfield titled the finished documentary Kurt & Courtney, and it was released in 1998. In the end, however, Broomfield felt he hadn't uncovered enough evidence to conclude the existence of a conspiracy. In a 1998 interview, Broomfield summed it up by saying, "I think that he committed suicide. I don't think that there's a smoking gun. And I think there's only one way you can explain a lot of things around his death. Not that he was murdered, but that there was just a lack of caring for him. I just think that Courtney had moved on, and he was expendable."[27]

Journalists Ian Halperin and Max Wallace took a similar path and attempted to investigate the conspiracy for themselves. Their initial work, the 1999 book Who Killed Kurt Cobain? drew a similar conclusion to Broomfield's film: while there wasn't enough evidence to prove a conspiracy, there was more than enough to demand that the case be reopened. A notable element of the book included their discussions with Grant, who had taped nearly every conversation that he had undertaken while he was in Love's employ. On their insistence, Grant played some of the tapes for the journalists to prove his claims. Over the next couple of years, Halperin and Wallace collaborated with Grant to write a second book, 2004's Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain, in which they claim to prove conclusively that Cobain was murdered.

After Cobain's death, Love insisted that Cobain's overdose in Rome was a suicide attempt. However, several people have contested the assertion. Dr. Osvaldo Galletta, who treated Cobain, told Newsday, "After [Cobain] woke up, he told me it was an accident. He said he had been confused. He had taken pharmaceuticals and alcohol together. He said it was just a mistake."[28] He further explained to Halperin and Wallace, "We can usually tell a suicide attempt. This didn't look like one to me." Galletta specifically denied Love's claim that 50 Rohypnol pills were removed from Cobain's stomach.[29]

Advocates of the official verdict of death (self-inflicted gunshot wound) cite Cobain's persistent drug addiction, clinical depression, and handwritten suicide note as conclusive proof. Members of Cobain's family have also noted patterns of depression in Kurt and instability before he achieved fame. Cobain himself mentioned that his stomach pains during Nirvana's 1991 European tour were so severe he became suicidal and that taking heroin was "my choice. I said, 'This is the only thing that's saving me from blowing my head off right now.'"[30] Sources close to him have also cited reasons such as the realized "artificiality" of stardom, the burdens of fame, Courtney's dominating presence and feelings of isolation. [citation needed] The contention is that Kurt saw suicide as a way out. [citation needed]

Many of Kurt's friends and associates, including Grohl and Novoselic, have remained silent on the matter. In August 2005, however, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon was asked about Kurt's death in an interview for UNCUT magazine. When asked what she thought to be Kurt's motive in committing suicide, Gordon replied, "I don't even know that he killed himself. There are people close to him who don't think that he did..." Asked if she thought someone else had killed him, Gordon answered, "I do, yes." [31]

[edit] Books on Cobain

Writer Charles R. Cross published a biography of Cobain titled Heavier Than Heaven in 2001. For the book, Cross attempted to contact as many of Cobain's friends and family as possible, and received a significant amount of input from Love. As such, the book is possibly the most detailed account of Cobain's life on record, and is arguably the "definitive" Cobain biography. However, neither Dave Grohl nor Cobain's mother contributed to the book.

Additionally, many criticized Cross for what they saw as his indiscriminate inclusion of information, including some factual inaccuracies. [32] For example, Cross cited "On the Mountain" conclusively as the first working title for "You Know You're Right". In reality, "On the Mountain" was the result of an effort by fans in 1995 to decipher Grohl's introduction to the song on a 1993 live recording. When a clearer version of the recording surfaced some months later, it became clear that Grohl introduced the song as "All Apologies", since "You Know You're Right" was not on the written setlist that night. Cross was also heavily criticized for including an "artist's rendering" of Cobain's final days. Cross claimed in interviews that he felt he had learned enough about Cobain to reasonably guess his state of mind in the last week of his life. Many felt that the inclusion of fiction in what was supposed to be a non-fiction book was an insult to Cobain's memory.

Cobain wrote in a journal often, leaving 22 notebooks filled with his writing when he died. In November 2002, a sampling of these writings was published as Journals. The book is 280 pages with a simple black cover; the pages are arranged somewhat chronologically (although Cobain generally did not date them). The journal pages are reproduced in color, and there is a section added at the back that has explanations and transcripts of some of the less legible pages. The writings begin in the late 1980s, around the time the band started, and end in 1994. A paperback version of the book, released in 2003, included a handful of writings that were not offered in the initial release.

In the journals, Cobain talked about the ups and downs of life on the road, made lists of what music he was enjoying, and often scribbled down lyric ideas for future reference. Upon its release, reviewers and fans were conflicted about the collection. Many were elated to be able to learn more about Cobain and read his inner thoughts in his own words, but were disturbed by what was viewed as an invasion of his privacy.[33]

Prior to Cobain's death, writer Michael Azerrad published Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, a book that chronicled Nirvana's career from its beginning, as well as the personal histories of the band members. The book explored Cobain's drug addiction, as well as the countless controversies surrounding the band. After Cobain's death, Azerrad re-published the book to include a final chapter discussing the last year of Cobain's life. The book is widely considered the definitive Nirvana biography, largely because of the involvement of the band members themselves. In 2006, Azerrad's taped conversations with Cobain were transformed into a documentary about Cobain, titled Kurt Cobain: About a Son.

[edit] Musical influences

Kurt performing with Nirvana at the MTV Unplugged  taping in November 1993.
Enlarge
Kurt performing with Nirvana at the MTV Unplugged taping in November 1993.

Cobain was a devoted champion of early alternative rock acts. He would often make reference to his favorite bands in interviews, often placing a greater importance on the bands that influenced him than on his own music. Interviews with Cobain were often littered with references to obscure performers like The Vaselines, The Melvins, Daniel Johnston, The Meat Puppets, Young Marble Giants, The Wipers, Flipper, and The Raincoats. Cobain was eventually able to convince record companies to reissue albums by The Raincoats (Geffen) and The Vaselines (Sub Pop). Cobain also noted the influence of The Pixies, and commented that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" bore some similarities to their sound. Cobain told Melody Maker in 1992 that hearing Surfer Rosa for the first time convinced him to abandon his more Black Flag-influenced songwriting in favor of the "Iggy Pop / Aerosmith" type songwriting that appeared on Nevermind.[34]

Cobain also made efforts to include his favorite performers in his musical endeavors. In 1993, when he decided that he wanted a second guitarist to help him on stage, he recruited Pat Smear of the legendary L.A. punk band The Germs. When rehearsals of three Meat Puppets covers for Nirvana's 1993 performance for MTV Unplugged went awry, Cobain placed a call to the two lead members of the band, Curt and Cris Kirkwood, who ended up joining the band on stage to perform the songs.

Where Sonic Youth had served to help Nirvana gain wider success, Nirvana attempted to help other indie acts attain success. The band submitted the song "Oh, the Guilt" to a split single with Chicago's The Jesus Lizard, helping Nirvana's indie credibility while opening The Jesus Lizard to a wider audience.

The Beatles were an early and important musical influence on Cobain. Cobain expressed a particular fondness for John Lennon, whom he called his "idol" in his journals, and even admitted that the song "About a Girl" was essentially his attempt at writing a Beatles song. He also found himself heavily influenced by punk rock, and often credited bands such as Black Flag and the Sex Pistols for his artistic style and attitude.

Even with all of Cobain's indie influences, Nirvana's early style was influenced by the major rock bands of the 70s, including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, KISS and Neil Young. In its early days, Nirvana made a habit of regularly playing cover songs by those bands, including Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", "Dazed and Confused", "Heartbreaker", and a studio recording of KISS' "Do You Love Me?". He also talked about the influence of bands like The Knack, Boston, and The Bay City Rollers.

There were also earlier influences: Nirvana's MTV Unplugged concert ended with a version of "Where Did You Sleep Last Night", a song popularized by blues artist Leadbelly, whom Cobain called one of his favorite performers. Critic Greil Marcus suggested that Cobain's "Polly" was a descendent of "Pretty Polly", a murder ballad that might have been a century old when Dock Boggs recorded it in 1927.

[edit] Legacy

In 2005, a sign was put up in Aberdeen, Washington that read "Welcome to Aberdeen - Come As You Are" as a tribute to Cobain. The sign was paid for and created by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee, a non-profit organization created in May 2004 to honor Cobain. The Committee also planned to create a Kurt Cobain Memorial Park and a youth center in Aberdeen.

As Cobain has no gravesite, many Nirvana fans visit Viretta Park, near Cobain's former Lake Washington home, to pay tribute. On the anniversary of his death, fans gather in the park to celebrate his life and memory.

The mythic nature of Cobain's life even captured the eyes of filmmakers. Gus Van Sant based his 2005 movie Last Days on what might have happened in the final hours of Cobain's life.

Cobain's own words were used to narrate a documentary on his life, titled Kurt Cobain About a Son. Journalist Michael Azerrad interviewed the band extensively for his 1993 book Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, and recorded twenty-five hours of tape with Cobain. Filmmaker AJ Schnack collaborated with Azerrad to use the tapes to tell the story. The film will debut at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.

Years after his death, Cobain continues to intrigue and inspire fans. A full eight years after his death, Nirvana's final studio recording, "You Know You're Right", became a hit, bringing a new generation of Nirvana fans. "Nevermind" remains a watershed in alternative music, and consistently ranks in "best album" lists throughout the world.

In October 2006, Cobain's posthumous fame among mainstream media was revived when Forbes Magazine ranked him as the top dollar-earning dead celebrity, earning an estimated $50 million from October 2005 to October 2006. In the six years of the list's publication, Elvis Presley had topped the list every year, but The King fell short of Cobain's earnings by about $8 million. This was the first time that Cobain appeared on the list, and according to Forbes writer Lacey Rose, "his debut atop the list is largely due to his widow, Courtney Love, who sold a 25% stake in his song catalog to publishing company Primary Wave for a reported $50 million." [35]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Garofalo, Reebee. Rockin' Out: Popular Music in the USA. Allyn & Bacon, 1997. ISBN 0-205-13703-2, p. 448
  2. ^ Azerrad, Michael. Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana. Doubleday, 1993. ISBN 0-385-47199-8, p. 254
  3. ^ Garofalo, p. 447
  4. ^ Azerrad, p. 13
  5. ^ Gaar, Gillian. "Verse Chorus Verse: The Recording History of Nirvana." Goldmine Magazine. February 14, 1997.
  6. ^ Cross, Charles. Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain. Hyperion, 2001. ISBN 0-7868-8402-9
  7. ^ Azerrad, p. 17
  8. ^ Savage, Jon. "Kurt Cobain: The Lost Interview". Guitar World. 1997.
  9. ^ Azerrad, p. 22
  10. ^ Azerrad, p. 20-25
  11. ^ Allman, Kevin. "The Dark Side of Kurt Cobain". The Advocate. February 1992.
  12. ^ Cross, Charles. Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain. Hyperion, 2001. ISBN 0-7868-8402-9
  13. ^ Azerrad, p. 35
  14. ^ Azerrad, p. 37
  15. ^ Azerrad, p. 45
  16. ^ http://www.moonwashedrose.com/media/sassy.html
  17. ^ Azerrad, p. 241
  18. ^ Halperin, Ian & Wallace, Max (1998). Who Killed Kurt Cobain?. Birch Lane Press. ISBN 1-55972-446-3.
  19. ^ Seattle Police Department (1994). Incident Report - March 18. Retrieved on March 13, 2006.
  20. ^ The Seattle Times (1994). Questions Linger After Cobain Suicide. Retrieved on March 13, 2006.
  21. ^ Seattle Police Department (1994). Missing Person Report. Retrieved on March 13, 2006.
  22. ^ Halperin & Wallace, p. 128
  23. ^ Merritt, Mike and Maier, Scott. "Cobain Lay Dead for 3 Days". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. April 14, 1994. Retrieved May 9, 2006.
  24. ^ Halperin & Wallace, p. 113
  25. ^ a b Lauer, Matt. "More questions in Kurt Cobain death?" Dateline NBC. April 5, 2004.
  26. ^ Halperin & Wallace, p. 126
  27. ^ http://www.minireviews.com/interviews/broomfield.htm
  28. ^ Henican, Ellis. "Doctor Saw Cobain's Suicide Coming", Newsday, April 10, 1994.
  29. ^ Halperin & Wallace, p. 99.
  30. ^ Azerrad, p. 236
  31. ^ Dalton, Stephen. "Suicide Blond." Uncut Magazine August 2005. Beautifully Scarred. Accessed on August 24, 2005.
  32. ^ Furth, Charles. "A Review: Heavier Than Heaven - The Biography of Kurt Cobain". LiveNirvana.com. January 14, 2003.
  33. ^ Hartwig, David. "Nirvana releases a hit and miss." Notre Dame Observer. November 19, 2002.
  34. ^ Cobain, Kurt. "Kurt Cobain of Nirvana Talks About the Records That Changed His Life". Melody Maker. August 29, [[1992].
  35. ^ Rose, Lacey (2006-10-24). Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved on 2006-10-24.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

Biographies and related documents

Cobain's equipment

Kurt Cobain's death

Nirvana
Kurt Cobain | Krist Novoselic | Dave Grohl

Aaron Burckhard | Dave Foster | Chad Channing | Dale Crover | Dan Peters | Jason Everman | Pat Smear

Discography
Albums: Bleach | Nevermind | In Utero | MTV Unplugged in New York | From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah
Compilations and Extended Plays: Blew | Hormoaning | Nevermind: It's An Interview | Incesticide | Nirvana | Sliver: The Best of the Box
Singles: "Love Buzz" | "Sliver" | "Molly's Lips" | "Here She Comes Now" | "Smells Like Teen Spirit" | "Come as You Are" | "Lithium" | "On a Plain" | "In Bloom" | "Oh, the Guilt" | "Heart-Shaped Box" | "All Apologies" | "Rape Me" | "Pennyroyal Tea" | "About a Girl (Unplugged)" | "The Man Who Sold the World (Unplugged)" | "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" | "Lake of Fire (Unplugged)" | "Aneurysm (live)" | "Drain You (live)" | "You Know You're Right"
Video releases and box sets
Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! | Singles | With the Lights Out | Classic Albums - Nirvana - Nevermind
Related content
Articles: Grunge music | Generation X | Courtney Love | Frances Bean Cobain | Heavier Than Heaven | Hype! | Kurt & Courtney | Last Days | Tom Grant | Outcesticide | Journals | List of Kurt Cobain's Equipment | Fecal Matter (band) | Spencer Elden | Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana

Categories: Nirvana | Nirvana members | Nirvana albums | Nirvana songs

This box: view  talk  edit
Personal tools